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The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings [Paperback]

by Bart D. Ehrman
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

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The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 4.1 out of 5 stars (76)
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Book Description

July 31, 2003 0195154622 978-0195154627 3
This new edition of Bart Ehrman's highly successful introduction approaches the New Testament from a consistently historical and comparative perspective, emphasizing the rich diversity of the earliest Christian literature. Rather than shying away from the critical problems presented by these books, Ehrman addresses the historical and literary challenges they pose and shows why scholars continue to argue over such significant issues as how the books of the New Testament came into being, what they mean, how they relate to contemporary Christian and non-Christian literature, and how they came to be collected into a canon of Scripture. Distinctive to this study is its emphasis on the historical, literary, and religious milieu of the Greco-Roman world, including early Judaism. As part of its historical orientation, this text also discusses works by other Christian writers who were roughly contemporary with the New Testament, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the letters of Ignatius. The volume is enhanced by two color inserts, one on illuminated manuscripts and the other on archaeology.
New to this edition:

· Additional material on archaeology, including a new eight-page color insert

· "What to Expect" and "At a Glance" boxes that provide summaries of the material covered in each chapter

· A Website Study Guide at, offering chapter summaries, glossary terms, guides for reading, and self-quizzes for students.

· Several new "Something to Think About" and "Some More Information" boxes

· More extensive treatments of Judaism and of the role of women in the history of early Christianity

· Nine new illustrations

· An Instructor's Manual containing chapter summaries, discussion questions, and possible examination questions

Ideal for undergraduate and seminary classes in the New Testament, Biblical Studies, and Christian Origins, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3/e, is an accessible, clearly written introduction that encourages students to consider the historical issues surrounding these writings.

Editorial Reviews


"An outstanding introduction. Blends contemporary scholarship, the early Christian world, and attention to the needs of students most skillfully. The best introduction currently available."--Francis J. Moloney, The Catholic University of America

"Ehrman's historical introduction to the New Testament is written more clearly than any other I have used; it situates Christianity more honestly in the ancient Greco-Roman world. It does not limit the picture of Christianity to the New Testament but draws on other early Christian writings. Lavishly illustrated."--John L. White, Loyola University

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Bart D. Ehrman is at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 3 edition (July 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195154622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195154627
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bart D. Ehrman is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestselling Misquoting Jesus and God's Problem. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is a leading authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus. He has been featured in Time and has appeared on Dateline NBC, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN, the History Channel, major NPR shows, and other top media outlets. He lives in Durham, N.C.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
242 of 261 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dream-textbook for teaching the New Testament December 12, 1999
By Stephen
Bart Ehrman's 'The New Testament' is a superb work for teachers seeking to assign their students a readable, reliable, and challenging introduction to the history of earliest Christianity and its literature. Incidentally, it would also be a fine first stop for intelligent readers who want to know what historians of early Christianity are saying about the birth of this religion and the origins of the New Testament. The work is engagingly written, with an occasional and not inappropriate first-person, and it has the merit of representing balanced, critical positions in the much debated-territory of New Testament studies. Ehrman's disinclination to accept a variety of trendy and dubious by-ways in New Testamental studies can be seen in his treatment of three areas. First, while not neglecting the Greco-Roman context, he positions Jesus squarely in the Jewish context and sees him as an apocalyptic teaching bent on internal reform of Judaism. Miracles are part of the picture, as they were for other charismatic Jewish teachers of the time (cf. the work of Geza Vermes). Ehrman declines to follow the scholars who with zeal and imagination claim to sort out editorial levels (and the communities or theological trajectories) in the hypothetical 'Q' document ('Q' = German 'Quelle' or 'source', i.e., the hypothetical sayings source lying behind the commonalities in Matthew and Luke and not in Mark). Thirdly in this regard, Ehrman refuses the common move of positing the existence of gnostic Christianity (or any 'gnosticism) prior to the first hard evidence for it in the late first or early second century. So this is a book that you can trust to pass on the generally accepted theories and to reject the more speculative moves of the field. Read more ›
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102 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A HISTORICAL Perspective July 28, 2005
In my view, Bart Ehrman writes with more clarity and strength than any other New Testament scholar. I have heard him speak, listened to his tapes and read his books. He exudes competency, frequently reminding us that his conclusions are those of a historian - then spends a little time explaining what that means. In the case of "The New Testament," it means he will examine authorship issues, content and revelancy of the various gospels, letters and apocolypses - inside or outside of the canon - differently than they might be examined from the pulpit. For example, issues of dogma are extensively discussed, but not endorsed nor advocated. Instead, they are examined for consistency within the whole context of the other books and the political setting in which the early church solidified its views. As a matter of fact, he is so non-committal it is impossible to tell exactly where he stands - although it is obvious he takes a liberal stance of some sort.

I had more than my share of fundamentalist preaching, yet values at home were those of inquiry and evidence toward the world in general. Ehrman's approach is more to my liking than reiteration of a dogma I've already heard, documented by passages from scripture pre-selected to prove a certain view. He compares the gospels, discusses the nuances of their differing themes and considers their probable authorship. The letters are treated similarly and the book of Revelations is subjected to a fascinating analysis. Consider the New Testament subjected to the kind of scrutiny one of Shakespeare's plays might receive from a college professor of western world literature - in which speculation is kept to a minimum and explanation is made as to the historical context of the story.
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325 of 380 people found the following review helpful
This book is well written and closely argued, but as an introduction to the subject matter it fails on at least one important level: Unlike, say, John Drane's "Introduction to the New Testament" or Raymond Brown's more detailed overview from the Catholic perspective, Ehrman does not introduce us to a representative sample of scholarly thought. Instead it mainly argues the case for Ehrman's own position, and in the process it takes for granted certain assumptions that are more widely contested than he seems willing to admit. In other words, there is a tendency to cite opinions that other equally reputable scholars would contest as though they were established fact.
Another difficulty with using this book as an introduction to the subject is that Ehrman does not give the reader enough assistance in investigating his influences and antecedents. He makes some quite radical assertions (e.g. challenging the traditional view that the oral traditions of pre-literate societies tend to be transmitted reliably) without the conventional footnotes quoting authorities and sources. Apart from some general further reading suggestions at the end of chapters, Ehrman's assertions along the lines that "recent research has shown" or "it is now accepted" have to be taken on his say-so alone.
Actually, Ehrman's antecedents are fairly obvious to anyone who has read theology - he continues the tradition of 19th century liberals like Wrede (and their 20th century disciples like Bultmann) who drew a sharp distinction between (i) the Jesus of history and (ii) the Christ of the Church's faith, and assumes that the Bible can only inform us about the latter.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is an excellent book by a biblical scholar who does a great job of explaining not only his perspective on the topic but how he came to that conclusion. Read more
Published 14 days ago by T. Hoffnagle
5.0 out of 5 stars A college textbook, but engrossing
This is written as a textbook and takes no official position on the religious validity of Biblically-based faith. Read more
Published 28 days ago by M.E.Anderson
2.0 out of 5 stars look for the 5th ed
The best edition is the 5th. Colorful pages, easy to read and understand.
Tools for the students such as: Quizzes, review questions and glossary.
Published 1 month ago by omar almonte
5.0 out of 5 stars Read me
Good overall book. I enjoyed the read and i do recommend it to all other people who like the subject area
Published 3 months ago by Greg Schmidt
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this..
This book is accessible, clearly presented, and factual. The author's opinions leak through, but if you're a christian you should be reading this for a challenge, and not to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by B. Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars I am not required to fill in these reviews when I shop at a local...
I am not required to fill in these reviews when I shop at a local store; I simply do not return if something is wrong.
Published 4 months ago by Searcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholary and Insitghtful Guide to New Testament Reading
My first serious study of the New Testament was about 45 years ago as a young adult. When my current Sunday School class embarked on this adventure again, I asked my pastor to... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Karen Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good introductory text
This is an undergraduate level college text book. Ehrman touches on the primary issues of New Testament scholarship in a very informative way without being pedantic. Read more
Published 8 months ago by James Kramer
5.0 out of 5 stars I love the text book & I do not think that I will buy a new text book...
I love it. The book came to my home early and in very good condition. I do recommend buying books this way when discussing text books purchases with my friends who are going to... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Charles F. McGrother, Jr.
1.0 out of 5 stars Using Human Reason for Biblical Interpretation
The Word shapes man's mind, not the other way around. Great book if you want to see the foolishness of worldly wisdom. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Zachary Viggers
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Topic From this Discussion
Old Testament equivalent?
Try this: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. I would read this too about the document source theory: Who Wrote the Bible? Well argued and easy to understand. not rock solid though on every point, but will give a good idea of what many suspect about how the... Read more
Mar 14, 2012 by David Bailey |  See all 3 posts
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